For breast cancer survivors, slowly progressive weight lifting can reduce the incidence of physical function deterioration compared with usual care, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Justin C. Brown and Kathryn H. Schmitz, Ph.D., M.D., from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, conducted a 12-month randomized trial of twice-weekly slowly progressive weight lifting or standard care in 295 nonmetastatic breast cancer survivors.

The authors assessed incident deterioration of physical function after 12 months, defined as a ≥10-point decrease in the physical function subscale of the Medical Outcomes Short-Form 36-item questionnaire.

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The researchers found that 16.3 percent of 147 patients in the control group and 8.1 percent of 148 patients in the weight lifting group experienced incident physical function deterioration after 12 months (relative risk, 0.49). There were no serious or unexpected adverse events noted in association with weight lifting.

“Future studies should directly compare the efficacy of weight lifting with other modalities of exercise, such as brisk walking, to appropriately inform the development of a confirmatory study designed to preserve physical function among survivors of breast cancer,” the authors write.


  1. Brown Justin C., Schmitz, Kathryn H. “Weight Lifting and Physical Function Among Survivors of Breast Cancer: A Post Hoc Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of Clinical Oncology. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2014.57.7395. [epub ahead of print]. May 11, 2015.